Alexandria Bay to make upgrades

Downtown Alexandria Bay in May. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

ALEXANDRIA BAY — State grant money meant to enhance downtown with new sidewalks, lights, benches and other possible improvements will be put to use after four years of dormancy.

The Village Board of Trustees earlier this month committed to financing streetscape improvements, in part with a $618,000 grant from the state Department of State.

The Alexandria Town Council, which was awarded the grant in 2015, gave a similar commitment Wednesday.

While local leaders have not yet settled on specific downtown enhancements, they have considered installing new ornamental LED lighting, public sidewalks, benches and trash cans, said village trustee Judith V. Fulmer. Mayor Steven E. Jarvis said officials also want to replace old parking meters throughout the village with a few kiosks, where motorists can pay a flat fee to park in public spots anywhere in the village.

“To me, anything we can do to make the downtown of our village look or feel better for visitors that come to our village is good for all of us,” Ms. Fulmer said.

The state department grant requires a 50 percent match, meaning the village and town would have to pay a combined $618,000 for an overall investment of almost $1.24 million from all three parties.

Alexandria Town Supervisor Brent H. Sweet said the town and village each will have to pay $309,000. The town decided to provide financial support for the village project because villagers pay town taxes, he said.

“We would just like to see a nice project, or projects, in the village of Alexandria Bay,” he said. “It’s a great feeling that this project’s going to move forward.

Concerns from officials about the cost of streetscape improvements, combined with disagreements of how to finance them and how to use the grant money, stalled the effort that began years ago.

Mr. Sweet, who was deputy town supervisor when the grant was secured, said earlier pitches failed to receive support from enough village and town officials. There was discussion about whether to finance private sidewalk replacements, but the idea was rejected. Officials also previously failed to come to a consensus on the scope of the downtown enhancements, Mr. Sweet said.

Village officials considered giving the town two docks and boat launches to help serve as its payment, but rejected the idea, said Ms. Fulmer, who took the lead on the project. After years of debate, and with pressure from the state to use the grant, Ms. Fulmer said the current village board members sat down, talked with each other, shared worries and ultimately decided to move forward.

“I’m excited; I’m happy. It took a lot of energy,” she said. “I think basically it was a combination of time, meeting and just letting everyone talk and say their concerns.”

The town plans to finance its $309,000 portion of the project with its fund balance, Mr. Sweet said. The village has been trying to determine whether it could use other funding awards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Lake Ontario Resiliency Economic Development initiative to count toward its $309,000 match, Mr. Jarvis said.

The village board may have to pursue bond financing for the project, but Ms. Fulmer said the board has been exploring other grant funding opportunities.

Mr. Jarvis said village and town officials and the project manager, the Development Authority of the North Country, will begin meeting to craft a definitive list of downtown enhancements.

“The village needs to improve. We need to move forward,” Mr. Jarvis said. “Now is the time we get ourselves together and make this happen.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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